March 17, 2011By Mal Boright Observer correspondent
Yes, they divided two regular season games and their meeting and on March 10, in the Division I girls basketball championship game at the University of Vermont’s Roy L. Patrick gym, the rubber match between Champlain Valley Union and Rice Memorial took place.
For a while, the crowning contest was almost another split. But, after the fifth-seeded Redhawks led 18-12 with less than two minutes to go until halftime, the third-seeded Green Knights went on a roll that carried them to a dramatic four-point intermission lead and an eventual 45-36 triumph.
In winning its first state crown since 2001, Rice closed the season with a 19-5 record.
CVU was 17-7.
One could almost get away with calling Rice the Krispies since they pop from all over the place. Critical to the Knights’ triumph were their six bombs in 22 tries from beyond the three-point arc. CVU, a chilly 26.5 percent from the floor, hit only 1 of 12 from the far reaches.
Rice also took away CVU’s often effective transition game. The Redhawks had just three assists on their 13 hoops – they averaged between approximately 10 per game.
“Rice deserves all the credit,” CVU coach Jeff Evans said immediately after the game. “They made the adjustments and did what they had to do.”
But the defensive-minded Redhawks ruled early as floor general Carlee Evans’s eight points and forward Lazrin Schenck’s four helped provide the 18-12 lead.
With the clock showing well under two minutes in the half, Rice freshman Hailee Barron (15 points) launched the first of two treys.
Operating out of a full court press, Rice defenders forced a CVU turnover and Williston resident Ellen Boucher (13 points, five rebounds) knocked in a jumper from the elbow. Another CVU turnover and Barron struck again from downtown.
After a timeout and the clock down to just seconds, Rice produced another turnover, and got the ball to Reagan Jewell for a layup at the buzzer and a 22-18 halftime.
After CVU got back to within 22-20 on two Shae Hulbert free throws early in the third quarter, Rice slowly pulled away to a six-point edge by the end of the reel and to a 42-28 lead before the Redhawks managed a furious 8-1 rally in the final two minutes.
Coach Evans, in the late stages, threw a double Kinneston at Rice with sisters Amanda and Emily at the guard slots along with Carlee Evans. Armanda Kinneston and Evans each bagged a pair of charity tosses before Evans passed to freshman Emily Kinneston for a base line twin-bracer, which got CVU to within 43-36 with 1:29 remaining.
The Redhawks got the ball back twice but couldn’t generate additional points while Boucher knocker down two free flips with 35 seconds left to seal the deal.
Carlee Evans paced the CVU scorers with 14 points, five rebounds, and an assist in her senior year finale. Hulbert, also a senior, had six points but climbed the boards for a game-high 13 rebounds. She also blocked three shots. Senior Amanda Kinneston, all over the floor defensively, had six points, six rebounds and five steals.
Rice returns juniors Boucher and Emma Chicoine, a Williston resident who had one point and two rebounds. Freshman Barron, who ran the offense from point guard, is also coming back.
Crowds of supporters for both teams were large and enthusiastic, which lent a charged atmosphere to the proceedings.
For the second time in its last two appearances in the D-I championship, CVU was without a starter after an injury in the semifinal. Junior center Remi Donnelly went down with a knee injury early in CVU’s victory over South Burlington. In 2008, the Redhawks lost starting guard Katie Lavalette to a fractured hand in a semifinal win prior to a loss to Mount Anthony in the title tilt.